In six Kentucky counties, coalitions have been formed, assessments have been completed and strategies are being developed, all intended to reduce obesity rates. The coalitions, known as Extension and Public Health Expanding Community Teams (EPHECT), include representatives from public health departments, school systems, community organizations, existing coalitions, the healthcare industry and local government.  With leadership from Extension Agents for Family and Consumer Sciences, these teams are working to create a positive effect in the Kentucky counties with the highest obesity rates – Clinton, Elliott, Letcher, Lewis, Logan and Martin counties. 

Elliott EPHECT

Clinton EPHECT

The work is part of a cooperative agreement with the U. S. Department of Health Services, Centers for Disease Control.  The University of Kentucky is one of six land-grant universities engaged in the cooperative agreement.  In April, the teams from all six universities traveled to Atlanta for a three-day meeting with personnel from the Centers for Diseases Control. The meeting offered an opportunity for the implementation teams to share strategies, discuss ideas and further develop plans for reducing obesity rates. Collaborators from the Centers for Disease Control highlighted technical support available to support the states as they implement programs at the community level.

In Kentucky’s six counties, all community coalitions have met twice. The initial meetings focused on assessing community assets for combatting obesity.  The second meeting of each coalition explored strategies to enhance existing community assets through Extension programs.  Counties are now developing plans for infrastructure improvements and Extension program implementation. Christy Nuetzman, Clinton County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences said, “Clinton EPHECT Coalition members are excited about the opportunities for our community.  It’s been energizing to observe new and existing partners share the needs and assets of our community.  We are excited about the additional resources and programs that will be available as part of the collaborative.”

Clinton EPHECT The coalitions are supported by a team of faculty and staff at the University of Kentucky, including representatives from the School of Human Environmental Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension, the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky and the College of Public Health. Dr. Janet Kurzynske, Extension professor and a co-investigator for the project, shared, “The partnership with CDC is providing an exciting opportunity for new collaborations to elevate our Extension programming in these six counties.  From this project, we will gain valuable insights to benefit communities across Kentucky.”